The Dark Side of Big Tech’s Accumulation of Power, Wealth

Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are valued together at $4+ trillion, with the six surviving founders of four of these companies worth $450 billion, noted Forbes, adding that these valuations have quintupled since 2009. The technology coming out of these companies has also been powerful, from smartphones to ride-sharing. Currently, tech accounts for seven of the top 10 worldwide companies by market cap. This wealth accumulation hasn’t been seen since Standard Oil at the turn of the 20th Century. Continue reading The Dark Side of Big Tech’s Accumulation of Power, Wealth

TikTok Intros Top 100 Video List, Pushes ‘Hotbed of Talent’

TikTok released its TikTok 100, the top videos in areas including beauty and style, sports, pets and dance trends. According to The New York Times, among the niche memes are #TikTokChecks (where users show off locations/objects as “markers of their identity”), VSCO girls (a “subculture consisting of scrunchies, Hydro Flasks and environmentalism”) and “walk a mile” (people creating high heels out of odd objects, to an Iggy Azalea riff. Among its successes, TikTok has made an impact on the music industry and played a role in the breakout success of Lil Nas X. Continue reading TikTok Intros Top 100 Video List, Pushes ‘Hotbed of Talent’

Study Reveals Power, Reach of Paid Influence Campaigns

The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, an independent group that advises the organization, conducted a test to see how well big tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are doing in filtering out paid influence campaigns that use automated bots and other means to manipulate social media. It did so by hiring 11 Russian and five European companies in the business of selling fake social media engagement and found that a small amount of money could cause a lot of damage. Continue reading Study Reveals Power, Reach of Paid Influence Campaigns

Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract For The Web Is a Plan to Save It

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, co-founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, has a new “global action” plan to save the Internet from what he dubs a “digital dystopia.” His Contract for the Web would require governments, companies and individuals to pledge and act to protect the Internet from abuse and “ensure it benefits humanity.” “We need to turn the Web around now,” said Berners-Lee, who noted that, “people’s fear of bad things happening on the Internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater.” Continue reading Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract For The Web Is a Plan to Save It

Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

Google is tweaking its policies in advance of the 2020 presidential election. The company has decided to restrict just how minutely political advertisers can target an online audience. While advertisers will still be able to target ads based on age, gender, location and content of the websites that users visited, they will no longer be able to target audiences based on public voter records or political affiliations described as “left-leaning,” “right-leaning” or “independent.” Meanwhile, social giant Facebook is considering a similar move. Continue reading Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

WhatsApp and Twitter Manipulated for Political Campaigns

Evidence of social media manipulation for political gain is increasing. In Brazil, in response to an investigation into the spread of misinformation during the last presidential campaign, WhatsApp revealed it banned 400,000+ accounts between August 15 and October 28, 2018, which had “breached its terms of service,” with mass mailings. In the U.K., during a debate between the prime minister and head of the opposition party, the former’s party rebranded its Twitter account with the aim of misleading the public. Continue reading WhatsApp and Twitter Manipulated for Political Campaigns

Zuckerberg Responds to Sorkin’s Open Letter of Criticism

Yesterday we reported that Jack Dorsey announced Twitter would ban all political ads, placing pressure on Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider Facebook’s laissez-faire approach to such content. As the CEOs’ opposing philosophies are generating a great deal of media buzz, screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin published an open letter to Zuckerberg, criticizing the chief executive for not doing his part to stop the spread of misinformation on the social network. In response, Zuckerberg used lines from the Sorkin-penned 1995 film “The American President” to essentially call Sorkin a hypocrite. Continue reading Zuckerberg Responds to Sorkin’s Open Letter of Criticism

Jack Dorsey Announces Twitter’s Plan to Ban Political Ads

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey revealed yesterday that the social platform would ban all political advertisements. Dorsey believes such content has “significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle,” and that manipulated videos and the spread of misinformation are creating challenges at an “overwhelming scale.” The move adds another layer to the debate over online advertising, social media and free speech — especially in the political arena — and increases the pressure on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider his laissez-faire approach. Continue reading Jack Dorsey Announces Twitter’s Plan to Ban Political Ads

Major Tech Firms Are Taking Action to Combat Deepfakes

Ahead of next year’s U.S. Presidential election, social platform Twitter is planning to introduce a new policy that intends to help curb manipulated media including altered videos known as “deepfakes.” Twitter plans to create its first ever such policy regarding deepfakes and will seek feedback from the public in doing so. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services has joined Facebook, Microsoft and others in the Deepfake Detection Challenge (DFDC) and will serve as a tech partner and committee member helping to oversee the challenge. Continue reading Major Tech Firms Are Taking Action to Combat Deepfakes

Facebook Agrees to Hand Over User Data to French Judges

Marking a world first, social giant Facebook has agreed to turn over data of French users who are suspected of hate speech on the popular platform. Cédric O, state secretary for the digital economy of France, who has been influential in shaping French President Emmanuel Macron’s perspective on Big Tech, made the announcement yesterday. The Facebook decision follows a number of successive meetings between President Macron and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It has been reported that Macron is actively interested in regulating hate speech worldwide and taking control of false information online. Continue reading Facebook Agrees to Hand Over User Data to French Judges

Facebook’s Instagram Working on Effort to Step Up Security

Since 2016, Facebook has referred questionable posts to fact-checking teams at news organizations to determine if they contain misinformation. Now, Instagram (owned by Facebook), has started a similar policy, using image recognition to identify posts with possible misinformation. Those posts are then sent to Facebook’s fact-checkers for review and if determined problematic, they’re no longer recommended on the Explore tab or hashtag pages. While the posts are not removed and remain in users’ main feeds or Stories carousels, Instagram is introducing a new policy to remove accounts after repeated violations.

Continue reading Facebook’s Instagram Working on Effort to Step Up Security

Facebook Opens New Command Post Ahead of EU Election

As part of a range of efforts to show that it has taken regulator and governmental concerns seriously, Facebook has set up an operations center in its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland ahead of the upcoming European Union’s parliamentary election, which is scheduled for May 23-26 across 28 countries. Employees will monitor and clear Facebook of misinformation, fake accounts, and any signs of foreign meddling aimed at swaying election results. Facebook recently set up a similar post in Singapore for elections in India.

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Facebook Using Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Bias/Abuse

At this week’s annual Facebook F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, company CTO Mike Schroepfer discussed the progress being made by internal teams dedicated to reducing the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and abuse on the social platform using various artificial intelligence techniques. In the course of a single quarter, according to Schroepfer, Facebook takes down more than a billion “spammy” accounts, more than 700 million fake accounts, and tens of millions of items containing violent content or nudity.

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YouTube Aims For Trending Videos to Come From Own Site

On the heels of a controversial quarter, YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki sent a newsletter to YouTube users and creators announcing that half of all featured videos on the site’s trending tab will come from YouTube itself. This assurance is meant to alleviate worries from some of YouTube’s most popular content creators who have concerns over copyright challenges, advertising policies, and video monetization, particularly related to YouTube’s favoring of more traditional content (movie trailers, TV clips) on its trending tab.

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Twitter Launches Feature to Report Election Misinformation

Twitter has unveiled a new feature that will let users directly report misinformation and fake news with regard to elections. Among the elections in India on April 25 and Europe on April 29, Twitter now offers the option “It’s misleading about voting” in the “Report Tweet” dropdown menu. On its blog, Twitter states that “voting is a fundamental human right … any attempts to undermine the process of registering to vote or engaging in the electoral process is contrary to our company’s core values.” Continue reading Twitter Launches Feature to Report Election Misinformation

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